“Melissa is a childhood cancer survivor that empowers children diagnosed with cancer.”
I would like to nominate my girlfriend, Melissa Pandolfi, in honoring her efforts of volunteerism with Camp Rising Sun and celebrating her 18th year of being a cancer survivor. In 1998 Melissa was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. Excited to start her sophmore year in high school, be on the sidelines as a cheerleader during football games, Melissa had to put her life on hold and battle cancer. Her oncologist suggested to attend Camp Rising Sun, a camp for kids with cancer located in Connecticut. In 1999 Melissa arrived at Camp Rising Sun as a bald and nervous 16-year old. It was the perfect fit for her to have a group of kids that knew how she felt and accepted her as just a normal person not the cancer kid. She grew from this unique camping experience alongside other cancer survivors and wanted to give back to the place that helped her get through her diagnosis. At age 19, Melissa applied to be a volunteer counselor and has been involved with the organization ever since.
For the past 13 years, Melissa has been the lead boys’ counselor and helping to plan all recreational activities. In March, Melissa left corporate america to follow her passion and recruit children to Camp Rising Sun. Melissa advocates for Camp by fundraising year round to help Camp Rising Sun remain a cost-free camp for kids like her. Additionally, Melissa acts as their ambassador to share her story to all children and families fighting cancer. She travels to area hospitals in CT, MA, and Rhode Island to hang out with newly diagnosed children and tell them about Camp Rising Sun!
Melissa would fit in all of your categories listed above, she is a devoted volunteer, 18th year Cancer Survivor, a hero to everyone she meets, and portrays leadership as a head counselor at Camp. Her smile lights up a room and her passion for working with children is truly remarkable. Melissa has touched hundreds of children by telling her story, playing a game, mentoring other young adult cancer patients, and making sure they have the best week at Camp Rising Sun.
To learn more about Camp Rising Sun - video - https://vimeo.com/158388820